'Baby Buns' Mom on Hardest Day in the NICU: 'I Saw My Son Die in My Arms'

"I saw his lips started to turn blue, his fingers started turning blue and then he just stopped moving," Dana Graves tells PEOPLE

Kaleb Graves, also known as Baby Buns, the boy who spent 355 days in the neonatal intensive care unit after being delivered at 23 weeks, turns 1 year old on Thursday.

Kaleb’s parents, Dana and Arkell Graves, whose pregnancy announcement after 17 years of infertility went viral last March, have a lot to celebrate, especially because doctors told them repeatedly that their son likely wouldn’t live to see this day.

Dana says that despite doctors’ predictions, she saw her son, who weighed just 13 ounces at birth, growing stronger every day. Even when doctors told Dana and her husband Arkell that their baby wouldn’t make it through the night, they believed otherwise.

That is until one day in June when Kaleb had a reaction to the medication administered after a tracheostomy surgery that caused his heart to stop.

“I saw my son die in my arms,” Dana tells PEOPLE. “Right after his surgery, I could tell he was uncomfortable, but then his heart rate started dropping and I saw his lips started to turn blue, his fingers started turning blue and then he just stopped moving.”

“He was laying there lifeless and I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience,” she continues. “I couldn’t even get myself together to call anyone. Then an alarm went off and 10 people ran into the room and started performing CPR and they took me out of the room.”

Dana recalls screaming at the top of her lungs in the hallway, and then her husband Arkell came out of their baby’s hospital room, shaking his head. She says she assumed the worst.

“It looked like he was telling me Kaleb didn’t make it and I just fainted,” Dana says.

When Dana came to, her husband was shaking her, repeating “He’s fine” over and over again. Doctors were able to bring Kaleb back and get him off the medication that had caused the reaction.


“This boy is so strong,” Dana says of her son. Four months after this episode, doctors cleared Kaleb to go home with his parents.

Now, with her whole family (including son Keelyn, 14, who is adopted) Dana says every day brings a new milestone that feels like a miracle.

“They said he’d never be able to crawl, but we give him tummy time and, boy, is he scooting across the floor,” she says. “He’s an amazing baby.”

Still, there’s one milestone he hasn’t yet reached that she’s looking forward to the most.

“I can’t wait for my baby to taste some of his mama’s cooking!” she says with a laugh.

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